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A new TUC report shows eight per cent of Black and minority ethnic workers have left their job as a result of racism at work.
Mary works as a lecturer in the south west. She says: “I have experienced racist abuse from members of staff and students. I drive a nice car and one member of staff asked me if I was a drug dealer, because how else could I afford to drive the car I drive? I have been asked on numerous occasions if people can touch my hair. I have been sunburnt, and somebody has said to me: “how on earth can you be sunburnt when you’re Black already?”. I have been called a N*** on more than one occasion. I have reported these incidents and been told it’s because of the area of the country we live in, which is predominantly white.”
Mary is just one of numerous people from Black and minority ethnic [BME] backgrounds who have experienced racism at work. According to a new TUC report, two in five (41%) BME workers have faced racism at work in the last five years.
This rises to more than half (52%) of BME workers aged 25 to 34 years old, and nearly 58% of those aged between 18 and 24 years old.
The TUC believes that the research is the UK’s largest ever study into the experiences of BME workers in the labour market.
More than a quarter said they had experienced racist jokes or “banter” at work in the last five years. A similar number were made to feel uncomfortable at work due to people using stereotypes or commenting on their appearance. A fifth had racist remarks directed at them or made in their presence and a fifth said they were bullied or harassed at work. Most perpetrators were colleagues, but for one in six the perpetrator was a line manager or other authority figure.
Most didn’t report the incident and among those who did nearly half were not satisfied with the response. More than a third said their most recent experience of racism at work left them feeling less confident at work and embarrassed, just under a third said it had a negative impact on their mental health and eight per cent said they had left their job as a result of racism. A quarter said the most recent incident they had experienced had left them wanting to leave their job, but financial or other factors made it impossible to do so.
The report also covers institutional racism, with 11% saying they were given an unfair performance assessment, 12% reporting being given harder or less popular work tasks than white colleagues and 12% saying they were denied promotions because of their ethnicity. Others reported issues around access to training and development, unfair criticism and unfair discipinary action.
Several reports have highlighted how BME women suffer a double penalty at work due to their sex and ethnicity, including a recent study by the Fawcett Society and the Runnymede Trust.
The TUC is calling on the government to ensure that employers have a duty to take action to prevent racism at work, backed up by swift and effective penalities, and for improvements in workers’ rights generally, given BME workers are the most likely to be in insecure, poor quality work. The TUC also wants to see the introduction of mandatory ethnicity pay gap reporting [similar to gender pay gap reporting], something the Government has rejected up until now.